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Each piece of Windows XP CD disc media or ISO image has been created for specific channel of distributions, namely retail, OEM or volume licensing. Each channel has specific installation CD and product key or CD key that required to register and activate the installed system. Activation with product serial keys from other channel version are simply not accepted, causing end-user to encounter problem when installation as a CD-key is not accepted even though it’s genuine, valid and correct.
The main problem is that not many people may be aware there is difference between various Windows XP media and the Windows XP product key that they’re having, especially users who download Windows XP images (popularly in ISO, IMG or BIN format) from Internet through file sharing sites or BT (BitTorrent) torrents. These images may not be labeled properly by indicating it’s Windows XP retail, OEM or volume licensing version. Besides, the downloaded image is mostly for Windows XP VL edition, and is not suitable for OEM product key, which pasted on COA sticker on PC. Even for IT professionals who legitimately download Windows XP and obtain serial numbers from MSDN or TechNet subscriptions, the ISO images and product keys may get mixed up between OEM, retail or volume license (VL) version if not been labeled or managed properly.

For users who have an incorrect edition of Windows XP CD or have installed an incorrect version of Windows XP, here are two tricks or hacks to change a live version of Windows XP installation, and change the version of Windows XP installation files. Why? Well, because end-user cannot change their product key easily, that’s why the only possible way to properly activate is to change the channel version of Windows XP.

How to Change the Distribution Channel Version of Existing Windows XP Installation

  1. Boot up the computer using the CD of the Windows XP edition (retail, OEM or volume licensing) that user wants to upgrade or convert the existing installation to.

    Note: User may have to change the boot device priority or sequence in BIOS.

  2. Windows XP setup wizard will launch and ask user to setup Windows XP, press Enter.

    Note: Do not press R or select the option “To repair a Windows XP installation using the Recovery Console, press R” option.

  3. Accept the License Agreement.
  4. Then, select the Windows XP installation you want to repair (change the channel) from the below list and press R to start the repair process.
  5. Setup will copy some files.
  6. Reboot the computer.
  7. Windows XP installation is now properly changed for retail, OEM or volume license according to the version of CD been used.

How to Change the Distribution Channel Version of A Windows XP CD

Tip: A more easier way is probably to download a new Windows XP with SP3 ISO image.

Note: This step can be used to check or verify the channel version of a Windows XP CD or image too. And it does not convert CD or image to royalty OEM Windows XP, which requires some OEM files to be existed.

  1. Copy all content of Windows XP CD to hard disk drive, or extract Windows XP disc image to a folder.
  2. Open the file \i386\setupp.ini in any text editor such as Notepad.
  3. Inside the setupp.ini, there is a “Pid” parameter with [Pid] header. The Pid variable consists of 2 parts. The first 5 digits is Microsoft product code (MPC) which determines the version of Windows XP that will be installed, the last 3 digits is channel ID that determines which CD-keys or product keys that the installation wizard will accept. Some example of standard combination for Pid for various editions of Windows XP:

    Windows XP RTM
    Retail: 51882335 (Retail edition accepting Retail CD keys)
    Volume License: 51883270 (Volume License edition accepting Volume License keys or VLK)
    OEM: 82503OEM (OEM edition accepting OEM keys or COA keys)

    Windows XP SP2

    Retail: 55274335
    Volume License: 55274270
    OEM: 55277OEM

    Windows XP SP3

    Retail: 76487335
    Volume License: 76487270
    OEM: 76487OEM

  4. The first 5 digits of Pid is normally stayed the same for same version of Windows XP (i.e. RTM, SP1, SP2 or SP3). Thus, only the last 3 digits of Pid needs to be modified according to example above. Generally, channel ID for retail is 335, OEM is OEM, and volume licensing is 270.
  5. Use nLite or other disc imaging program to re-create or re-burn the modified Windows XP installation disc media or image.

Note: Newer Windows XP discs may check whether the CD’s volume label matches the type of CD too. In this case, the wrong volume label may still render the disc unworkable. Here’s a brief list of known English version of Windows XP CD volume labels.

XP Home and Professional Combo = WXPHFPP_EN

XP Home Retail = WXHFPP_EN
XP Home Retail with SP1 = XRMHFPP_EN
XP Home Retail with SP1a = X1AHFPP_EN
XP Home Retail with SP2 = VRMHFPP_EN
XP Home Upgrade = WXHCCP_EN
XP Home Upgrade with SP1 = XRMHCCP_EN
XP Home Upgrade with SP1a = X1AHCCP_EN
XP Home Upgrade with SP2 = VRMHCCP_EN
XP Home OEM = WXHOEM_EN
XP Home OEM with SP1 = XRMHOEM_EN
XP Home OEM with SP1a = X1AHOEM_EN
XP Home OEM with SP2 = VRMHOEM_EN
XP Home Volume = WXHVOL_EN
XP Home Volume with SP1 = XRMHVOL_EN
XP Home Volume with SP1a = X1AHVOL_EN
XP Home Volume with SP2 = VRMHVOL_EN

XP Professional Retail = WXPFPP_EN
XP Professional Retail with SP1 = XRMPFPP_EN
XP Professional Retail with SP1a = X1APFPP_EN
XP Professional Retail with SP2 = VRMPFPP_EN
XP Professional Upgrade = WXPCCP_EN
XP Professional Upgrade with SP1 = XRMPCCP_EN
XP Professional Upgrade with SP1a = X1APCCP_EN
XP Professional Upgrade with SP2 = VRMPCCP_EN
XP Professional OEM = WXPOEM_EN
XP Professional OEM with SP1 = XRMPOEM_EN
XP Professional OEM with SP1a = X1APOEM_EN
XP Professional OEM with SP2 = VRMPOEM_EN
XP Professional Volume = WXPVOL_EN
XP Professional Volume with SP1 = XRMPVOL_EN
XP Professional Volume with SP1a = X1APVOL_EN
XP Professional Volume with SP2 = VRMPVOL_EN
XP Professional Tablet PC with SP1 Disc1 = XRMPFPP_EN
XP Professional Tablet PC with SP1a Disc1 = X1APFPP_EN
XP Professional Tablet PC with SP2 Disc1 = VRMPFPP_EN
XP Professional MSDN = WXPFPP_EN
XP Professional MSDN with SP1 = XRMPFPP_EN
XP Professional MSDN with SP1a = X1APFPP_EN
XP Professional MSDN with SP2 = VRMPFPP_EN
XP Professional Evaluation = WXPEVL_EN